Print and Packaging design – The Thought Process

Packaging design and how we are effected

I have a guest writer, Jonny Rowntree on the blog today with a very interesting article looking into the thought process that goes into Print and Packaging design and how it works. A very interesting read I believe you will agree.

thought behind print and packaging design

The Thought Process Behind Print & Packaging Design

Without a doubt, the world loves its food. Stroll along some of the avenues along the oldest streets and alleyways and you’re greeted with a multisensual mosaic of fruits and pastries that will send connoisseur and amateur alike into throes of delight. The great 20th century innovation – the supermarket – has evolved from a warehouse of manufactured goods to adopt a more rustic and rural feel, with the packaging industry setting the stage for food aesthetics.

Of all the factors which give a particular type or brand of food marketing presence – nutritional benefits, organic value, price, and taste – design remains paramount. When it comes to everyday goods, judging the book by its cover is probably more rooted into our subconscious than we think – and corporations understand this all too well.


Print and Packaging Design - Ice cream

Appetising for the Eye

It’s Sunday night, you’re on a cheap budget, and you want something quick and easy before hunkering down for that last long paper-writing marathon with an impending deadline – the £3 meal for one appeals. The slightly intensified juicy colours, softly focused; the elegant cursive, matte finish and reassuring, well-known logo gives it an expensive appeal. This will do the trick.

Particularly for frequent, curious impulse shoppers, packaging plays an essential role, and to a degree for regulars with their regimented weekly lists. Print and packaging in the food industry is constantly changing, fully aware of the demographic it is aiming for and how it fits in with current trends and seasons. Holiday and harvest seasons always add a festive flair to their packaging design, suggesting that there is something extra delicious about the product simply because of the time of the year. Companies send out their own distinctly Christmassy editions of chocolates and other goodies so that their product doesn’t lose face with the competition.

Print and Packaging Design - Pasta Box Design
A Palate of Colour

But it’s not just about what and when – it’s about how. There is a carefully selected process which defines cheap food from refined cuisine, designating a kind of class system on the shelves. Take a lot at multi-coloured packaging, geared towards not only children but teenagers and undergrad students. Bright hues, garish typography like comic sans or trebuchet, bold, catchy titles and marquee-style marketing means that the some of the unhealthiest food aisles in the supermarket are also the most vibrant with their glittering crisp packages and massive budget chocolate bars. It’s easy to differentiate these from the “organic” or “healthy” food section where current trends have focused on rustic fonts, a minimalist design that effectively utilises negative space, and subdued colours. Rather than saturated photographic images, a combination of classy typography which sells the health aspect and a few illustrations seem to suffice. When photography is used, the colours are softer and given a more natural appeal.

The thought process behind this is that the quality of the product speaks for itself – it’s doesn’t need amplifying when the magic “organic” or “gluten-free” word is printed, nor does it need to ramp up the colour spectrum to get the taste buds going. It also heralds back to an age where products were once printed and packaged with a simpler technology, an era which has inspired a reboot of the vintage in recent rebrandings like Tesco’s Everyday Value.

This is interesting shift from styles which were once restricted to generic foods – discount brands which opted for cheap, basic monochromic styles while the leading brands splashed out a feast of detail. The principle worked – if the print and packaging looks this good, then the manufacturer must invest equivalent standards in the product itself. Now it’s about who needs to say the least to showcase the most their product can provide.

Print and Packaging design for Juice cartons


The Drink Counterpart

Drink seems to be a little bit different – mostly because packaging tends to be transparent for items like fruit juices (save for cartons, which compensate by including vivid colours and appetising food photography). This allows the aesthetic quality of the drink to reveal itself through its natural or artificial colour, and only a small space is allowed for print design. Power drinks contrast this principle, suggesting a kind of magical potent mystery surrounding their energy potential and instead using striking icon imagery and typography with bold complimentary colours, completing the illusion. Delicate wines, ales, and spirits follow the organic style of simplicity with minimal detail, using the power of logos and symbols to highlight the brand and the reputation which goes with it.

And perhaps that is the most fascinating aspect about the food print and packaging industry in itself – in a world which is turning away from highly-modified products, it is possibly returning to a more natural, balanced aesthetic that ties us to our integral culinary roots.

You can read more artless about packaging design on the loudBANG! design blog, such as  Beautiful Packaging Design,  Sustainability and Eco Packaging design   and  Water in a box 

Article written by Jonny Rowntree, a freelance writer from Northern England working with worldwide digital printing partner, Elanders UK. Recently, he has worked with Creative Bloq, Buffer and The Next Web.